[OUTLOOK]Cleaning up a dirty businessIt was not so long ago that the National Assembly was criticized for not passing a motion to permit the detention of seven legislators accused of corruption. The politicians’ contempt and misuse of law continued into this year.
The Millennium Democratic Party went so far as to snub a warrant for its former chairman, Hahn Hwa-kap, concerning allegations over illegal presidential campaign funds, and they staged a demonstration in support of Mr. Hahn. The Grand National Party passed a bill to free former chairman Suh Chung-won, who was detained on allegations of breaking the law on political funds.
The opposition parties tried to justify their acts by criticizing the ongoing probe on political funds, calling it biased. It is true that there are some incomplete things with the prosecution’s inquiry into political corruption. The prosecution and the special investigative counsel should heed the criticism and conduct a fair and strict inquiry on all allegations of political corruption, whether it concerns the government party or the opposition.
But to claim that the prosecutor general and the chief of the Central Investigative Office are in a “conspiracy” and scheming “to kill the opposition parties” is going quite overboard. We have seen enough of this hypocritical act of politicians condemning any inquiry unfavorable to them as “oppression” and calling their colleagues who are accused of corruption “democracy fighters.” We should no longer tolerate any obstruction of justice by the subjects of an investigation and alleged criminals who are forgetting the task of the times is to clear out corruption in our politics.
The decision to detain the former chairmen, Mr. Hahn and Mr. Suh, was not only made by the prosecution but by the court under due process. Therefore, the politicians are not only disrupting a prosecution inquiry, they are in contempt of a court order. If the legislators disregard the law, how could we ever expect the public to uphold it? Even if there had been some unjust treatment, a dignified politician would suffer it to uphold the law and to have the truth revealed in court.
The spokesman for the Grand National Party said that the motion to set Mr. Suh free was passed under due process. It seems quite shameless of the Grand Nationals and Millennium Democrats who voted in favor of the motion to talk about “due process.”
One would like to ask them if they truly have no idea how enraged the people are with the countless cases of legislators abusing their rights. The legislators voted in favor of the motion as “insurance” to have a similar motion passed should they themselves be detained in the future. While always defending their own side, the politicians clamor for hearings to be held on their rival parties. Instead of turning to the numerous national issues that require their attention, the legislators seemed to think that freeing Suh Chung-won was more important.
From now on, the prosecution should not waver under any political attack on its inquiry and keep up its attitude that it will conduct its investigation strictly based on the evidence it finds. Also, the prosecution must put to rest the public lament that those in power always go free while the powerless are always found guilty.
If former presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang is found guilty of using illegal campaign funds, he should go to jail as he has offered. If any illegal act on the part of President Roh Moo-hyun is uncovered, he should face legal responsibility after his term ends. And even if half of the National Assembly is to go to jail as a result of this investigation, so be it if that is what it takes to allow clean politics to take over our country.
To borrow from the title of a recent movie, “The Brutal History of Maljukgeori,” it is now time to write the brutal history of Yeouido, where the National Assembly is located, and the brutal history of the Blue House. To stop the National Assembly from becoming the escape hatch of corrupt politicians, the law should be revised to restrict the legislators’ abuse of their privileges.
More specifically, lower the number of votes necessary to pass the motion for the detention of a politician under allegations of breaking the political funds law or receiving bribes and raise the number of votes needed to pass a motion freeing legislators under detention.
It is hardly likely that politicians will willingly campaign for a revision so unfavorable to them, so public pressure is necessary. The last word is a plea to the politicians. As the representatives of the people who make our laws, please uphold the law and maintain your dignity. Don’t criticize the investigation on corruption according to the interests of your party and don’t distort the truth. If you ignore this plea, you will only have the cold rejection of the voters to look forward to in this general election.
* The writer is a professor of law at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Cho Kuk